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Ross-on-Wye

The Towns Water Supply

Water Supplies

Ross-on-Wye's water supplies originally came from public and private wells situated around the town, many of which have since been filled in or capped over.

The first piped supplies to the town were setup by John Kyrle circa 1700 but this was not improved until Thomas Blake modernised the system in around 1850.

The following pages cover some of the wells and pumping stations that have supplied the town.


The Prospect and the Town's Water Supply

The Prospect was, at one time, a very important part of a system for the supply of clean and fresh water to the town.

The Prospect originally contained a fountain, constructed by John Kyrle, and the water was pushed up from the river by a pump. The location is believed to have been approximately where the War Memorial now stands but no drawings of its actual style or design have been found.

Under the Prospect is a water tank described as being "the size of a small ballroom" and has brick walls with flag stone flooring. This tank was last accessed in the 1960's and was found to be completely dry. Unfortunately since then the precise location of the man access point to the tank has been forgotten. The water was then sent around the town to public taps in the street for the townsfolk to use. This had completely fallen into disrepair by 1827 and water was a problem again.

Below is an example of an access point to the water that flowed out from the Prospect.

Access point to Prospect water supply
Access point to Prospect water supply
(Click for a larger image)
Inside the water course
Inside the water course
(Click for a larger image)

Thomas Blake established the Alton Court Water Works in 1887 and this helped to solve the problem of how to get fresh water into the town. He then built a reservoir in the Prospect which was supplied by a gas or oil powered pump that was located in a building by the Hope and Anchor pub at the end of the Rope Walk. The water was distributed around the town via a pipe network and the largest user was likely to be the brewery and the system is believed to have been finally abandoned around the time the brewery closed.

The reservoir has since also been filled in and the pump, and building that housed it, have since been removed so very little physical evidence remains of the efforts put in the water supply that must have been so important to the town.


Market Place

On the north-east side of the Market House was a public well that supplied the centre of town via a pump that was situated there.

Cawdor Well

The site of Cawdor springs (22-03-09)
The site of Cawdor springs
(Click for a larger image)

The Cawdor Well is on the northern boundary of the urban part of Ross, on the Ross Urban and Ross Rural boundary, and was fed from five weak springs coming up through the sandstone1. The well was renowned in the area for curing rheumatism and similar ailments. The map below clearly identifies that there was a well here and the photo above is thought to be the area where the springs came to the surface. The well was located south of here on the lower side of the path where a house has now been built.

The site of Cawdor Well
The site of the Cawdor Well in 1937
Reproduced from the 1937 Ordnance Survey map. Crown copyright

By 1935 the well had been filled in although it was still marked on OS maps until much later.

Today there is no actual sign of the well except that the springs still run and this accounts for the water that runs down the path from the top of Brampton Hill (just below the entrance to River View) down to Cawdor Arch Road.


Crofts Well

During renovation works at the Crofts in September 1986, a private well was dug up at the rear of the buildings.

The Crofts Well
The Crofts Well in 1986
[Photo: J.C.Coombes]
(Click for a larger image)


Water Pumped from the Wye

John Kyrle was responsible for the first piped water supplies in Ross. He set up a waterworks at "The Dock" (next to the Hope and Anchor) and the water was pumped from a pool in the river1 up to a tank in the Prospect and from there it was piped around the town.

Water pump by the Wye
The site of the Pump House in 1937
Reproduced from the 1937 Ordnance Survey map. Crown copyright

In 1935 the works were still in use as a soft water supply where the water was used as boiler feedwater and for non-potable uses in a few houses. By this time the water was supposedly pumped up to the Prospect using a turbine driven race from the Rudhall Brook1 but within living memory there was an oil engine at the Hope (circa 1950). The pump was renowned for being noisey, smelly and visable through the wire fence.


Merrivale Water Works

The site of Merrivale Tank (14-03-09)
The site of Merrivale Tank
(Click for a larger image)

This is believed to be the site of the 25,000 gallon Merrivale Tank. Water was pumped to the tank, which was used to provide a static pressure (head) to the water, from the Merrivale Water Works (which also supplied a tank at Merrivale Farm).

The Merrivale Water Works was originally built to supply the Merrivale Estate, which includes Ashfield, but was extended to supply the Alton Court Brewery on Station Street. A spur was fitted to the water main to supply a tap located at one corner of the Market House.


The water for the works was supplied from springs but in a drought during 1887 the springs dried up so the Alton Court Brewery built a new works at Alton Court fed from wells. The Merrivale Works were then abandoned and the springs were then diverted to run into the ponds at Merrivale House.

Local memories of the tank are that there was a brick arched frontage which had fallen into dis-repair by the 1950s.

Water pump by the Wye
The Merrivale Farm and Ponds
Reproduced from the 1937 Ordnance Survey map. Crown copyright

Alton Court Water Works

The Alton Court pumping station (20-06-06)
The front of the Alton Court pumping station (Click for a larger image)

The Ross Waterworks (at Alton Court) were established in 1887 and was run by the Trustees of the late H. T. Blake. It supplied "hard water of good quality" and was originally supplied from four artesian boreholes in the Old Red Sandstone. The works had no water filtration facilities and pumped the water up to the tank in Tank Meadow. This was done by an oil pump and by a windpump.

The boreholes were 37, 45, 62 and 100 foot deep respectively and no. 1-3 were 6 foot in diameter whilst no. 4 was 24 foot. The yeild from each was 72,000, 96,000, 144,000 and 277,200 gallons every 24 hours.

Borehole no. 1 flows into a reservoir tank, no. 2 & 3 feed into suction-wells and no. 4 was pumped directly.

The side of the Alton Court pumping station (20-06-06)
The side of the Alton Court pumping station
(Click for a larger image)

The back of the Alton Court pumping station (20-06-06)
The back of the Alton Court pumping station (Click for a larger image)

Borehole no. 4 was sunk by Messrs. C. Isler and Co. Ltd in 1929 and was the only one still in general use by 1935.

The pump for this borehole was submerged at 35 feet from the surface and was capable of pumping 25,000 gallons per hour. During the pumping the water level dropped by 33 feet and remained there during the pumping and rapidly recovered when pumping stopped and during the winter the borehole overflowed into the ponds (which are normally fed by natural springs).

During the drought in 1921 all the borehole rest levels slowly dropped to 20 feet from the surface and then held this position.

Water pump by the Wye
The Alton Court works and Ponds
Reproduced from the 1937 Ordnance Survey map. Crown copyright

A well top (20-06-06)
A well top at the pumping station
(Click for a larger image)

The water works was able to supply a daily average of 200,000 gallons per day which was increased to 240,000 gallons per day during the summer; the maximum available was 312,000 gallons per day.


Tank Meadow
Tank Meadow
Reproduced from the 1937 Ordnance Survey map. Crown copyright

Alton Court Brewery

Site of artesian well on Station Street
Site of artesian well on Station Street
[Photo: Dick Andrews]
(Click for a larger image)

The Alton Court Brewery Co. Ltd in Station Street also had a 4 inch artesian borehole that was 350 feet1 deep and capable of supplying 1,000 gallons per hour. It was sunk by Messrs. Le Grand, Sutcliff and Gell Ltd and was used for cleaning purposes only.


Water from artesian well
Water from artesian well
[Photo: Dick Andrews]
(Click for a larger image)
Water from Alton Court Brewery artesian well
Water from Alton Court Brewery artesian well
[Photo: Dick Andrews]
(Click for a larger image)

During the excavations to build the McCarthy and Stone retirement housing on the site of the Alton Court Brewery on Station Street, the cellars containing the artesian well were dug up.

Presumably due to damage to the borehole top, water flowed naturally out of the borehole and these are some photos showing the flooded cellar and the top of the well once it had been pumped out.

The top of the artesian well
The top of the artesian well
[Photo: Dick Andrews]
(Click for a larger image)


1 Wells and Springs of Herefordshire - HM Stationary Office - 1935


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[Page updated: Feb 15 2011 13:31:58]






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